OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Senator Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, secured 2024 State Budget grants for numerous Monmouth County nonprofit organizations and school districts engaged in helping residents in need of mental health services.
“We have seen an alarming spike in youth depression, feelings of isolation, teen suicide and other mental health issues that started during the pandemic and continue today,” said Gopal, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Ocean Township, Eatontown, Shrewsbury, Neptune Township, Neptune City, and Red Bank school districts, and The Source at Red Bank Regional High School all will receive direct funds from the budget.
Red Bank Borough School Superintendent Jared J. Rumage said post-pandemic challenges have significantly impacted student mental health and presented new obstacles for public schools.
“We place great value on providing a safe, nurturing, and challenging learning environment for every student, every day,” Rumage said. “These additional resources will help our students achieve their BIG dreams.”
Ocean Township Superintendent of Schools Kelly E. Weldon thanks Gopal for prioritizing mental health funding for schools. “We know these funds will undoubtedly go a long way in helping our students and improving our schools,” Weldon said.
For the past several months Gopal has been working in a bi-partisan effort with legislative leadership in Trenton to secure direct funds for the residents of the 11th Legislative District. Mental health and the organizations that provide mental health services were a priority in the budget negotiations.
“If not for the compassion and dedication of our nonprofit partners and their volunteers, these residents would have nowhere else to turn,” the senator said.
Gopal secured state budget grants for organizations that have a countywide impact, including the $2.5 million grant to the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey; the Monmouth Mental Health Association, $250,000; School Based Youth Services Program, $40 million; the United Way of Ocean and Monmouth Counties, $250,000, and the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, $100,000.
“In a time where so many adults and youth are struggling to achieve mental wellness the Senator’s continued laser focus and advocacy across party lines has resulted in increased funding not only for our agency but many others who are facing extraordinary challenges to keep up with the increased demand for treatment as well as a lack of licensed providers,” said MHAMC President and CEO Wendy DePedro.
Laurie Goganzer, YMCA president & CEO, YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, said the nonprofit organization would use the budget funds to enhance its mental health programs. “Thanks to this grant, we will be able to increase resources to sustain the important work of our Y’s mental and behavioral health services,” she said. “We are so thankful for the support from the State of New Jersey and to Senator Vin Gopal and Governor Phil Murphy for their advocacy of mental health resources.”
Many of the nonprofits that will benefit from state budget grants have a more local focus, including Community Affairs Resource Center, $50,000; Horizon's Jersey Shore, $50,000; Parker Family Health Clinic of Red Bank, $100,000; Preferred Behavioral Health Group with a location in Eatontown, $50,000; Shore House in Long Branch, $50,000, and the Tigger Stavola Foundation, $50,000.
This is the third year in a row the Parker Family Health Center, where more than 60 medical professionals volunteer services including mental health, has been included in the state budget, according to Executive Director Suzy Dyer.
“Parker Family Health Center is extremely grateful to Senator Vin Gopal, the New Jersey State Legislature and the New Jersey Department of Health for the recent Dedicated Aid 2024 grant award. Their continued support is critical in realizing Parker’s mission of caring for the uninsured residents of Monmouth County,” Dyer said.
Shore House Executive Director Rich Ambrosino said the state budget grant is critical to its survival.
"Shore House provides the continuum of care that adults living with persistent mental illness so desperately need and that care would not be possible without the support of our leaders, like Senator Gopal," Ambrosino said.
The Tigger Stavola Foundation will use its grant to continue working with high schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties to fight addiction, Executive Director Andrea LeLand said.
“As of 2021, drug overdoses were only slightly less deadly than all homicides, suicides, and motor-vehicle fatalities combined,” LeLand said. “This grant will allow our programs, in high demand at all area schools, to continue to flourish throughout our local communities.”
Gopal has successfully sponsored numerous pieces of legislation to provide access to mental health services that have become law, including sponsorship of the NJ Child Mental Health Collaborative Program; securing millions for the Visiting Nurses Association to expand Mental Health Programs; expanding telehealth for remote options for mental health, and securing millions to build out the School-Link Resource Program to expand mental health assistance in schools.
Numerous mental health organizations have recognized Gopal for his work on mental health issues, including the Mental Health America, which honored him last year as one of 11 state legislators nationwide for championing mental health.
Senator Vin Gopal serves as Senate Majority Conference Leader and Chair of the Senate Education Committee. Elected in 2018, a lifelong resident of Monmouth County, Senator Gopal represents residents of Asbury Park, Allenhurst, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbor, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Tinton Falls, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Township, and West Long Branch in the State Senate.